THE Tories have hit out at Nicola Sturgeon after the First Minister wrote an essay for the Sunday National arguing that now is the time to debate independence.

Sturgeon fired the starting gun on a fresh indy drive after Covid as she pledged an updated prospectus outlining the case for leaving the UK will begin to be published “shortly”.

She said the Scottish Government was “committed to offering that choice, and ensuring that it will be a fully informed one”.

“To that end, we will shortly begin publishing an updated prospectus on the opportunities that independence can offer Scotland,” she said.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Now is the time to debate Scottish independence

The post received more than 1000 likes on Twitter but saw backlash from Unionists.

The Scottish Conservatives said the Scottish Government was “distracted by its obsession” with independence.

Sharing a picture of the Sunday National's front page, they said: “Nicola Sturgeon thinks that now is the time for a new independence campaign.

"Islanders and rail commuters deserve better than a government distracted by its obsession.”

A reply to the Tory post read: “Independence from Holyrood is long overdue.”

Donald Cameron, the Conservative constitution spokesperson, labelled the FM's call "utterly reckless".

He said: "It’s utterly reckless that Nicola Sturgeon still obsesses with holding a vote to break up the UK despite the war taking place in Ukraine, our post-pandemic recovery and a cost of living crisis to focus on.

"She is continuing to ignore the fact that the people of Scotland do not want another independence referendum.

“This is just another example of the SNP refusing to focus on the daily issues our country is facing in favour of their divisive separation push.

“Their self-serving obsession with breaking up the UK has to stop before it causes even more harm to Scotland’s interests.”

Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr meanwhile took another shot at the First Minister for her recent trip to America.

He said: “Hugely out of touch Nicola Sturgeon returns from tea and cosy press ops in the USA to declare 'now is the time to break up the UK'.

"Meanwhile normal people are worried about the cost of living, rail cuts, falling school standards, longer NHS wait times...”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added: “Amid a cost of living crisis, Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession with her negative campaign for separation is an insult to the people of Scotland.

“While her government presides over cuts to train services, oversees a ferry fiasco, and abandons a pledge to eliminate the education attainment gap, it is wasting time and resources on a new blueprint on leaving the UK.”

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed that indyref2 will be held in 2023First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed that indyref2 will be held in 2023

While the UKIP Scotland account also responded to the front page: “People are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table, yet the #Snp are more concerned about independence which would be a disaster for Scotland.”

Labour politicians also attacked the FM, with councillor Brian McGinley saying: “Groundhog day and policy regurgitation. Do you think that we are daft? Sadly, the only growth in Scotland are the NHS waiting times.”

Replying to a different tweet on the essay, McGinley said: “This is not news. It's propaganda. We settled the argument in 2014. This is madness. A sign of madness is to repeat the same actions and expect a different result.

READ MORE: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon fires starting gun on independence debate

"Of all the things that need sorted in Scotland and you want to debate the constitution again? Seriously?”

And responding a third time, this time to a post announcing the article, the Labour politician said: “Might it be because there is a UK election in a couple of years and, having made no progress nor point any meaningful way forward over the past eight years, she needs to pretend that the constitutional debate is not stuck in a time warp? We decided Scotland's future in 2014.”

The front page saw support from many indy supporters and politicians, with SNP MP Hannah Bardell tweeting: “‘If we have been able to use the existing devolved powers to take significantly better decisions for Scotland, what more could we be achieving with the powers that remain in the hands of the Tories at Westminster?’ Answer- So very much. Bring on Indy!”

And Elena Whitham MSP said: “There is no status quo anymore as we face climate & biodiversity crisis, a cost of living crisis & the UK shows itself to be manifestly unequal in the extreme. Scotland can chose another path: we have the foundations, the will, the assets and the skills.”